Sainte Monique, les larmes d’une mère pour son enfant perdu
Aliénor Goudet | 26 août 2020
Beaucoup connaissent le nom et l’histoire de saint Augustin, le libertin devenu docteur de l’Église au IVe siècle. Mais ils oublient souvent son pilier de conversion : sa mère Monique qui a tant prié et pleuré pour lui durant ses années d’errance. Voici l’histoire de quelques unes de ces nombreuses larmes versées pour son fils.
Thagaste, 373. La nuit est tombée il y a bien longtemps sur la ville et la plupart des habitants dorment paisiblement. Pourtant, une lueur persiste dans la maison du fonctionnaire Patricius. Seule dans sa chambre, à la faible lumière d’une lampe à l’huile, Monique est recroquevillé et sanglote dans les draps de son lit.
La colère virulente avec laquelle elle a jeté Augustin, sa concubine et leur fils hors de chez elle il y a quelques jours est retombée, laissant place à un gouffre de tristesse dans sa poitrine. Son cœur est déchiré entre le regret d’avoir ainsi cruellement chassé son fils de chez elle, et le désespoir de le savoir prêchant les préceptes creux et blasphématoires de la secte manichéenne.
Depuis longtemps, elle sent l’écart grandissant entre son fils et l’enseignement de la foi chrétienne qu’elle lui a donné. Son libertinage et son goût pour le jeu en sont des preuves irréfutables. Mais jamais elle ne s’était imaginée qu’il tomberait si bas, si loin de Dieu et du Christ.
La peur que l’âme de son Augustin soit perdue à jamais lui tord le ventre. Elle tente de prier mais ses mots se transforment vite en appel désespéré.
– Seigneur, que dois-je faire pour sauver mon fils de lui-même ? répète-t-elle, incapable de formuler quoi que ce soit d’autre.
Épuisée par l’émotion et le chagrin, Monique finit par s’endormir en répétant sa demande. Mais en rouvrant les yeux, elle se voit debout sur une règle de bois. Même dans son rêve, les larmes coulent toujours. Une voix l’interpelle alors.
– Monique, dit-elle, pourquoi pleures-tu ?
Elle aperçoit en levant les yeux un être de lumière d’une beauté époustouflante qui lui sourit avec douceur.
– Mon fils s’éloigne de plus en plus de Dieu, répond-t-elle. Je ne sais plus quoi faire.
– Ne sois pas inquiète, lui dit l’être en pointant à côté d’elle. Vois ton enfant. Il est là où tu te trouves.
Monique se retourne. En effet, Augustin se tient quelques pas derrière elle sur la même règle. Puis elle se réveille en sursaut dans son lit, au moment même où une servante pénètre dans sa chambre, lui demandant si tout va bien.
– Oui, je vais bien mieux, dit-elle. Envoie quelqu’un trouver mon fils, et lui faire savoir qu’il peut reprendre sa place ici.
Quelques jours plus tard, de nouvelles larmes piquent les yeux de Monique. Augustin ne veut rien entendre de sa vision et tente même de tourner les mots de l’être de lumière à son avantage et celui des manichéens. Quelle tête de mule ! Et face à son esprit si vif, le débat n’a pas duré. Comment peut-on être à la fois si brillant et si dérouté ?
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C’est donc pour cela que Monique se trouve à l’église pour de nouveau prier et demander le salut pour son fils. Le souvenir de son songe l’empêche de désespérer mais elle n’en reste pas moins démunie. Une main chaleureuse se pose alors sur son épaule et Monique sursaute.
– Pourquoi pleurez-vous ainsi ?
Durant un instant elle espère qu’il s’agisse de l’être de lumière, mais c’est l’évêque de Thagaste qui se tient là. Elle lui raconte ses tourments, alors que les larmes coulent toujours. Mais comme l’être de lumière, l’homme lui répond simplement.
– Ne craignez rien. Il est impossible que périsse ce fils de tant de larmes.
Sur le chemin du retour, Monique s’interroge sur les mots de l’évêque si semblable à ceux de son rêve. « Ne crains pas », lui a-t-on dit. Par deux fois, Dieu lui a fait parvenir ce message. Elle sait une chose au moins : le Seigneur n’a pas l’intention d’abandonner son fils.
Mais alors qu’elle entre chez elle, les serviteurs lui annonce qu’Augustin a pris un vaisseau pour Rome, sans prévenir. De nouveau, Monique pleure. Mais si la colère et la tristesse lui brûlent le cœur, une lueur scintille au fond d’elle alors qu’une nouvelle conviction prend racine : peu importe la durée de son errance, peu importe le nombre de larmes qu’il lui fera verser. Augustin reviendra à Dieu.
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À travers ses larmes, elle ordonne au serviteur de préparer ses bagages.
Il faut à Monique plus de 15 ans de larmes et de prière avant la conversion totale de son fils en 387, l’année même de sa mort. Le pape Pie V l’inscrit au calendrier liturgique au XVIe siècle. Elle est la sainte patronne des mères chrétiennes. On dit que par deux fois elle fut mère de saint Augustin, une fois pour le monde terrestre et une fois pour le ciel.
Comment sainte Monique se libéra de son addiction à l’alcool
Anne Bernet - Publié le 12/09/21
Monique, la mère de saint Augustin, connut elle aussi, comme son fils, de fâcheuses habitudes. Elle avait par exemple développé une certaine addiction à l'alcool. La Providence aidant, sa conscience et sa force d’âme l’en délivrèrent.
Fille aînée d’un couple de la classe moyenne de Thagaste, Monique, née en 331, a été élevée à la dure par une vieille servante chrétienne qui jugeait utile de mortifier les sens des enfants. Par exemple en leur interdisant de boire un verre d’eau en dehors des heures de repas. Il fait chaud, l’été en Numidie, l’Algérie actuelle, et cette privation coûtait à la petite et à ses sœurs. Pour la justifier, la rude éducatrice disait : « Aujourd’hui, vous buvez de l’eau, faute de vin, mais une fois mariées, maîtresses de la dépense et de la cave, l’eau vous semblera fade quand l’habitude de boire se sera installée… » Autrement dit, elle pensait les prémunir contre l’alcoolisme mondain et solitaire de femmes mal mariées qui s’ennuieraient chez elles.
La clef de la cave
Ce fut le contraire qui arriva. L’épisode nous est rapporté par son fils Augustin, dans les Confessions (IX, 8). Monique avait quinze ans environ, le temps vînt où la vieille servante mourut et fut remplacée par une domestique du même âge que sa jeune maîtresse, avec laquelle, jalouse, elle s’entendit aussitôt fort mal. De disputes en disputes, dans lesquelles, l’une étant fille libre et l’autre de condition servile, Monique a toujours le dernier mot, la haine de la servante envers elle ne cesse de croître. Elle s’en rendait compte et se méfiait d’elle.
Vers cette époque, marque de confiance, ses parents confièrent à Monique la clef de la cave et la chargèrent d’aller, chaque jour, y prendre le vin pour les repas familiaux. Au bout de quelques jours, curieuse, Monique ne put s’empêcher de tremper les lèvres dans la boisson contre laquelle elle avait été tant mise en garde. L’irrésistible attrait du fruit défendu…
Le vin romain est beaucoup plus lourd, plus épais que les nôtres, beaucoup plus alcoolisé aussi, au point qu’il faut le couper, pour le boire, de deux fois sa mesure d’eau, ce dont les vrais buveurs se gardent bien. Il n’en faut pas de grosses quantités pour s’enivrer vite et fort.
Rouge de confusion
Les premières fois, Monique trouve les quelques gouttes absorbées détestables ; elles lui donnent la nausée et lui font tourner la tête. Pourtant, jour après jour, elle y trempe les lèvres et, l’habitude venant, les quelques gouttes deviennent petites gorgées, puis les petites gorgées grandes lampées et, bientôt, des coupes entières, qu’elle siffle gaillardement et qui la mettent dans un état d’ébriété manifeste, ce dont ses parents, parfaitement indifférents, ne se rendent pas compte. Seule la servante, qui l’accompagne à la cave pour lui tenir la lampe, est au courant de ce honteux penchant. Elle n’en informe pas ses maîtres, sans doute dans l’intention de nuire plus gravement à Monique, le moment venu. Or, un midi, comme elles sont seules toutes deux à la cave, et Monique déjà un peu grise, elles se prennent de querelle et l’esclave, s’emportant mais sûre de son impunité, la traite de « sale petite biberonne de vin pur », autrement dit de poivrote.
Sa honte fut telle qu’elle trouve la force, et il en fallait, de ne plus boire une goutte de vin.
L’injure la dessoule d’un coup. Il est invraisemblable qu’une esclave se permette de parler sur ce ton à sa maîtresse mais, rouge de confusion, Monique se rend compte qu’elle l’a mérité. Elle est en effet une petite ivrognesse qui s’arsouille en cachette, s’exposant à juste titre au mépris d’une servante insolente. Sa honte fut telle qu’elle trouve la force, et il en fallait, de ne plus boire une goutte de vin. Ainsi, avec la grâce de Dieu, se corrigea-t-elle définitivement de son vice.
Monique : mère de saint Augustin, par Anne Bernet, Artège, avril 2019, 14 euros.
SOURCE : https://fr.aleteia.org/2021/09/12/comment-sainte-monique-se-libera-de-son-addiction-a-lalcool/?_se=bG91aXMubGVmcmFuY29pc0Boc3QudWxhdmFsLmNh&utm_campaign=NL_fr&utm_content=NL_fr&utm_medium=mail&utm_source=daily_newsletter
Study for St. Monica by John Nava
Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum
SOURCE : http://www.lejourduseigneur.com/Web-TV/Saints/Monique
Ancient tomb of Saint Monica, San Agostino al Campo Marzio, Roma
O mon Dieu, je ne laisse pas de pleurer en votre présence pour celle qui vous a si fidèlement servi, pour celle qui, après m'avoir porté dans son sein pour me faire naître à la lumière passagère de ce monde, me porta depuis dans son coeur, afin de me faire renaître à votre lumière éternelle.
O Dieu de mon coeur, Dieu de miséricorde, quelque sujet que j'aie de me réjouir en vous et de vous rendre grâces de tout le bien que fit ma mère pendant sa vie, je veux laisser à part, quant à présent, toutes ses bonnes oeuvres, et je viens implorer auprès de vous le pardon de ses péchés.
Exaucez-moi, je vous en conjure, par les mérites de celui qui fut attaché pour nous à une croix, et qui, maintenant assis à votre droite, ne cesse d'intercéder pour nous.
Je sais que votre servante a pratiqué les oeuvres de miséricorde, et qu'elle a pardonné du fond de son coeur à ceux qui l'avait offensée : pardonnez-lui donc aussi, mon Dieu, les fautes qu'elle a pu commettre envers vous pendant tout le temps qui s'est passé depuis son baptême jusqu'à sa mort. Pardonnez-lui, Seigneur, je vous en supplie ; que votre miséricorde l'emporte sur votre justice, parce que vous êtes fidèle dans vos promesses, et que vous avez promis la miséricorde à ceux qui auront été miséricordieux.
Je crois que vous avez déjà fait pour mère ce que je vous demande ; et cependant, Seigneur, puissent les prières que je vous offre être agréables à vos yeux. Elle-même nous recommanda de vous les adresser, et de nous souvenir d'elle à l'autel du Seigneur.
N'oubliez pas, mon Dieu, que celle pour qui je vous prie avait fortement attaché son âme, par les liens d'une foi inébranlable, à cet admirable mystère de notre rédemption. Que rien ne puisse donc l'arracher à la protection de son Dieu ! Que l'ennemi ne réussisse, ni par la ruse, ni par la force, à la séparer de vous ; que son âme repose dans la paix éternelle. Amen.
prière pour le repos de l'âme de sa mère, sainte Monique.
formerly 4 May
Raised in a Christian family, she was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. Mother of two, one of whom is Saint Augustine of Hippo whose writings about her are the primary source of our information about Monica. She prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Spiritual student of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Reformed alcoholic.
Mothers of History, by J T Moran, C.SS.R.
Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein
Short Lives of the Saints, by Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly
Life of Saint Monica, by Mother Frances Alice Monica Forbes
1001 Patron Saints and Their Feast Days, Australian Catholic Truth Society
Catholic Herald: The Saint Who Prayed for Saint Augustine
Catholic Herald: What the Alcoholic Saint Monica Teaches Us About Redemption
Life of Saint Monica, by Mother Frances Alice Monica Forbes
Nothing is far from God. – Saint Monica
Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. – Saint Monica, about the conversion of Augustine of Hippo
The day was now approaching when my mother Monica would depart from this life; you know that day, Lord, though we did not. She and I happened to be standing by ourselves at a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house. At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead..” We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth – for you are the Truth – what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man.” We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life. That was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. But you know, O Lord, that in the course of our conversation that day, the world and its pleasures lost all their attraction for us. My mother said, “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have even renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?” I do not really remember how I answered her. Shortly, within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side, but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: “Where was I?” We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gave steadily upon us, and spoke further: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I remained silent as I held back my tears. However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: “Look what he is saying.” Thereupon she said to both of us, “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased. – from the
“Saint Monica“. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 April 2021. Web. 27 August 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-monica/>
We are told but little of her childhood. She was married early in life to Patritius who held an official position in Tagaste. He was a pagan, though like so many at that period, hisreligion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica's married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius's mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was of course a gulf between husband and wife; her almsdeeds and herhabits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a veritable apostolate amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.
Three children were born of this marriage, Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and her grief was great when Augustine fell ill; in her distress she besought Patritius to allow him to be baptized; he agreed, but on the boy's recovery withdrew his consent. All Monica'sanxiety now centred in Augustine; he was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. He was sent to Madaura to school and Monica seems to have literally wrestled with God for the soul of her son. A great consolation was vouchsafed her — in compensation perhaps for all that she was to experience through Augustine — Patritius became a Christian. Meanwhile, Augustine had been sent to Carthage, to prosecute his studies, and here he fell into grievous sin. Patritius died very shortly after his reception into the Church and Monica resolved not to marry again. At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he ventilated certain heretical propositions she drove him away from her table, but a strange vision which she had urged her to recall him. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, "the child of those tears shall never perish." There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, wither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine yield, after seventeen years of resistance. Mother and son spent six months of true peace at Cassiacum, after which timeAugustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Africa claimed them however, and they set out on their journey, stopping at Cività Vecchia and at Ostia. Here death overtook Monica and the finest pages of his "Confessions" were penned as the result of the emotion Augustine then experienced.
St. Monica was buried at Ostia, and at first seems to have been almost forgotten, though her body was removed during the sixth century to a hidden crypt in the church of St. Aureus. About the thirteenth century, however, the cult of St. Monica began to spread and a feast in her honour was kept on 4 May. In 1430 Martin V ordered the relics to be brought to Rome. Many miracles occurred on the way, and the cultus of St. Monica was definitely established. Later the Archbishop of Rouen, Cardinal d'Estouteville, built achurch at Rome in honour of St. Augustine and deposited the relics of St. Monica in achapel to the left of the high altar. The Office of St. Monica however does not seem to have found a place in the Roman Breviary before the sixteenth century.
In 1850 there was established at Notre Dame de Sion at Paris an Association of Christianmothers under the patronage of St. Monica; its object was mutual prayer for sons and husbands who had gone astray. This Association was in 1856 raised to the rank of anarchconfraternity and spread rapidly over all the Catholic world, branches being established in Dublin, London, Liverpool, Sydney, and Buenos Aires. Eugenius IV had established a similar Confraternity long before.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Confession, IX, reprinted in SURIUS. GUALTERUS, Canon Regular of Ostia, who was especially charged with the work of removing the relics from Ostia by Martin V, wrote a life of the saint with an account of the translation. He appended to the life a letter which used to be attributed to St. Augustine but which is undoubtedly spurious; it purports to be written to his sister Perpetua and describes their mother's death. The BOLLANDISTS decide for the contemporary character of the letter whilst denying it to St. Augustine. BARONIUS, Ann. Eccl., ad an. 389; BOUGAUD, Histoire de S. Monique.
Pope, Hugh. "St. Monica." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 3 May 2015<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10482a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Paul T. Crowley. In Memoriam, Mrs. Margaret Crowley & Mrs. Margaret Kenworthy.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, AL 35210
St. Monica was born in 332 to Christian parents in
present day Algeria to Christian parents and married at the age 13 or 14 to an
older man named Patricius, who was neither wealthy nor Christian. He has also
been described as an ill tempered man who was unfaithful to her. In addition,
she had to deal with a live-in mother-in-law who was constantly criticizing
her. She sought refuge in God through an intimate prayer life and in her three
children: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. (It is believed that two other
children died in infancy.) In answer to her constant prayers, both her
mother-in-law and her husband Patricius converted to Christianity. Monica had
been praying for the two of them for 20 years. Patricius died the following
At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17
and a student in Carthage. Augustine kept bad company and was immersed in “a
cauldron of illicit loves.” He took a Carthaginian woman as his mistress and
lived with her for fifteen years. Monica prayed constantly for his faith, but
the faith he adopted was as a Manichean. For a while, Monica banned him from
her house. In her sorrow a certain bishop consoled her: “Don’t worry, it is
impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.” Then one night she had
a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time
on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him.
When he was 29, Augustine left North Africa for a
teaching position in Italy and Monica tried to follow him, but he was
determined to go alone, so he tricked her into believing that he was only
visiting the port to say goodbye to a friend, when he was actually leaving.
Monica followed him anyway and found him seriously depressed and tried to
arrange a wealthy marriage for him. The faithful mistress had left their son
with him and had returned to Carthage. Augustine took another mistress and then
became engaged to wealthy young woman, whom he later abandoned when he decided
to take a vow of celibacy. Augustine had met Ambrose, the archbishop of Milan,
and was influenced greatly by him.
For a while, Monica lived with Augustine and her
grandson in a country cottage in Milan, where where they lived in community
with friends and his brother, Navigus and she served as the housekeeper. Here
she found St. Ambrose, who became her spiritual director, and through him, she
ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after
seventeen years of resistance. Augustine was baptized by Ambrose in 387 in the
church of St. John the Baptist at Milan.
Augustine tired of teaching and resolved to return to
North Africa. The family set out on their journey, stopping at Cività Vecchia
and then at Ostia. Here Monica died in peace and the finest pages of
Augustine’s “Confessions” were penned as the result of the emotion he then
St. Monica is the patron of abuse victims, alcoholics, alcoholism, Bevilacqua, Italy, difficult marriages, disappointing children, homemakers, housewives, Mabini, Bohol, Philippines, married women, mothers, victims of adultery, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, widows, wives.
Monica, Matron (RM)
Born at Tagaste or Carthage, North Africa, in 331-2; died at Ostia, Italy, in 387. Monica, the eldest of three children of Christian parents, was reared by a family retained, who led her charges in a strict life. According to one story, the servant never allowed them to drink between meals because, "It is water you want now, but when you become mistresses of your own cellar, you will want wine--not water--and the habit will remain with you. Nevertheless, when as a young girl she was given the duty of drawing wine for the family, she ignored the maxim and indulged in wine until the day an angry servant caught her drunk and called her a "winebibber." From that day she made a vow (that she kept) that she would never drink anything but water.
Died A.D. 387.
Monica, whose name is one of the glories of the Church in the fourth century was born in Numidia, in the year 332.
A She belonged to a good Catholic family. From her early life we may learn the power of habit, and the golden value of prudence and temperance. The promising girl by degrees contracted a liking for wine, as she took a sip now and then when sent to the cellar by her mother to draw some for the use of the family.
Though this sipping became habitual, it never grew excessive. It is not hard to see, however, where it might have terminated had not God mercifully checked Monica. A servant-maid was His instrument. One day a curious glance into the cellar revealed her young mistress in the act of drinking. It was not forgotten; and some time after, on words arising between them, the servant taunted Monica by calling her a “wine-bibber.” This pointed rebuke acted like the lancet in a happy surgical operation. The future Saint reflected, prayed, and was cured for ever.
Not long after this moral change Monica received baptism, and henceforth her life was that of a true Christian. On reaching the age of womanhood her parents gave her in marriage to a citizen of Tagaste named Patricius, a man of honor, but, unhappily, a heathen. Here was a new field of labor. Monica served her husband with matchless amiability, and toiled to gain him to God. But it was, in truth, a tedious and most difficult undertaking.
As a pagan, Patricius was the slave of vices both nameless and countless. Monica’s chief argument to reclaim him was the sanctity of her own conduct, backed by those kind, affectionate manners which could not fail to inspire his love, respect, and esteem She bore all his sallies of passion with angelic patience. He was a man of hasty and violent temper, but his prudent wife never annoyed him by the least word or action while she saw him in anger. When, however, the fit was over and Patricius was calm and sensible, she gave him her reasons in a way that was both gentle and impressive.
When Monica saw other women bearing only too visible marks of the anger of their husbands, and heard them bitterly blaming their rough tempers and vicious lives, she would simply reply: “Rather lay the blame on yourselves and your tongues.” It was a truth well said, and her own example was a convincing proof. In spite of the unhappy fact that Patricius was a man who often foolishly flew into a towering passion, yet he never forgot the sacred respect due to his wife’s person. The storm lasted but a moment And thus Monica, by silence and kindly tact, always had her home lighted up with the blessed sunshine of peace.
This illustrious lady had also the happy gift of making peace among quarrelling neighbors – often a very thankless task. On such occasions she spoke with a force, prudence, and tender charity that was truly wonderful.
It was her great delight to serve the poor. She assisted daily at Mass, and studied to imitate the actions of the Saints. But she never allowed any exercise of piety to stand in the way of the most careful attention in watching over the education of her children, in which, however, Almighty God gave her numberless occasions of merit and suffering – particularly in Augustine – that He might in the end more amply crown her holy toil.
Augustine was born in 354. As he grew up Monica was unceasing in her cares to plant the seed of virtue in his young soul. Still, she was, perhaps, immoderately fond to see him excel in learning, but she flattered herself that he might one day make a good use of it in promoting the honor and glory of God. Her husband desired the same thing, but merely that his son might one day raise himself in the world.
One of the happy fruits of Monica’s patience and prayers was the conversion of Patricius. Henceforth he became pure in his life and faithful to the duties of a good Christian. He died in 371 – a year after his baptism
Augustine, who was then seventeen years of age, was pursuing his studies at Carthage, where, unhappily, he was led astray by the Manichees and joined those vain heretics. His mother was informed of the misfortune, and her grief was inexpressible. Augustine had lost the precious treasure of faith, and to Monica the news was more heartrending than if he were laid in the silent tomb. So deep was her indignation that she would neither suffer him to eat at her table, nor even to live under the same roof with her.
“Thou hast heard her vows,” exclaims Saint Augustine in after-years, addressing himself to God, “and Thou hast not despised her tears; for she shed torrents in Thy presence – in all places where she offered her prayers to Thee.”
Nor were the prayers of the saintly woman unheard. An angel appeared to her in a dream and told her to wipe away her tears, adding: “Your son is with you.” She was comforted. She told this dream to Augustine, but he ventured to infer that she would come over to his sentiments in matters of religion. “No,” she said with energy, “it was not told me that I was with you, but that vow were with me.” Such a pointed answer made a great impression on Augustine, as he afterwards acknowledged. This happened in the year 377, and Monica again permitted her son to eat and live in her own dwelling.
Almost nine years, however, passed away before Augustine’s conversion; and during all this time Monica appealed to Heaven with sighs and tears and prayers. Once she engaged a learned prelate to speak to him. “The heart of the youth,” said he, “is yet too indocile; but God’s time will come.” On another occasion she urged him with renewed earnestness. “Go,” answered the good old bishop, “continue to do as you do. It is impossible that a child of such tears should perish.” Monica went home, bearing these words in her mind as a message from heaven.
When Augustine was twenty-nine years of age, he resolved on going to Rome to teach rhetoric. His mother opposed such a design, fearing it might delay his conversion. She even followed him to the sea-side, determined either to bring him back or to accompany him to Italy. He pretended, however, that he had no intention of going; but one night, while his mother was praying in a chapel, he secretly boarded a vessel bound for Europe.
“I deceived her with a lie,” writes Saint Augustine, “while she was weeping and praying for me; and what did she ask of Thee, my God, but that Thou wouldst not suffer me to sail away! But Thou graciously heard her main desire – that I might be engaged in Thy service – and refused to grant what she asked then, in order to give what she always asked!”
Next morning, on finding that her son had sailed, Monica’s grief was boundless. “God,” says Butler, “by this extreme affliction would punish her too human tenderness; and His wisdom suffered her son to be carried by his passions to a place where He had decreed to heal them.
This devoted mother followed her gifted but erring son, and found him at Milan, the city of the great Saint Ambrose, where she learned from his own lips that he was no longer a heretic. She now redoubled her tears and prayers for Augustine’s thorough conversion, which she had the joy to witness in the summer of 386. He was baptized at the following Easter, with several of his friends.
“My son,” said the illustrious Monica, “there is now nothing in this life that affords me any delight. What have I to do here any longer, or why I am here, I know not. All my hopes in this world are at an end. The only thing for which I desired to live was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God has done much more. I see you now despising; all earthly felicity and entirely devoting yourself to His service. Then what further business have I here?”
Soon after the Saint and her converted son set out for Africa; but on the road the great woman was seized with a fever. A friend asked her if she was not afraid of being buried so far away from her own country. “Nothing is far from God,” she replied. “Nor need I fear that he will not find my body to raise it with the rest.”
On reaching the port of Ostia, where they were to embark, she said to her two sons: “You will bury your mother here.” Augustine was silent; but Navigus expressed a wish that she might not die in a foreign land.
“Lay this body anywhere,” she said. “Be not concerned about that. The only thing I ask of you both is – remember me at the altar of God wheresoever you are.”
She grew weaker, and soon the beautiful spirit winged its flight to that happy abode where tears and sorrow and suffering are unknown. Saint Augustine, who was then thirty-three years of age, closed her eyes – those loving eyes which were so often raised to heaven, so often drowned in the floods of bitter tears that gushed forth for his conversion. And thus died the dear Saint Monica, model of all good mothers, at the age of fifty-six, in the year 387.
John O’Kane Murray, M.A., M.D. “Saint Monica, Mother of the Great Saint Augustine”. , 1879. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 September 2018. Web. 27 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/little-lives-of-the-great-saints-saint-monica-mother-of-the-great-saint-augustine/>
Most of us think of Saint Monica in association with her son, the great Saint Augustine.
This is understandable for two reasons. We are familiar with the famous painting of the parting of Monica and Augustine at Ostia. Familiar, too, are the now famous words of an unknown bishop to Saint Monica: ‘The child of such tears will never perish.’ We are introduced, as it were, to Saint Monica sorrowing.
Sorrow played a big part in the life of Saint Monica; the sorrow of a loving wife for a harsh spouse and a devoted mother to a wayward son. Life was not kind to Saint Monica. Her husband, Patritius, was a pagan. Though naturally generous and kind hearted, Patritius was a harsh and unfaithful husband. His mother and servants took their cue from him in their treatment of his young wife. Monica bore her difficulties with patient cheerfulness and. her conduct profoundly influenced Patritius, finally bringing him to the gift of faith after twenty years of married life.
Wife beating was common among the pagans and Monica’s neighbours marvelled that not once did Patritius strike his wife.
Saint Augustine himself tells us of his mother in his writings: ‘She served her husband as her Lord and strove to gain him to You, O God, by speaking of You to him by her virtues, by which You did render her beautiful and reverently lovely and admirable to her husband. . . . She never resisted him by word or deed in his fits of anger, waiting till the storm was over for a proper occasion. And when many wives came to her all disfigured to complain of their husbands’ conduct, she jocosely told them to blame their own tongues.’
Saint Monica had three children, two boys and a girl – Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. Augustine, the eldest, was born at Tagaste on November 13th, 354.
In spite of every difficulty, Monica brought up her children in faith and piety. We are indebted to Saint Augustine’s own writings for the information: ‘While yet a child I had heard from her of the eternal life promised to us through the humiliations of the Lord, our God, Who came down to cure our pride. My father could never so far overcome in me the influence of my mother as to prevent me from believing in Christ for she laboured that You, my God, should be my Father rather than he, and in this You did assist her.’
In another place Saint Augustine tells us: ‘By Your great mercy, O Lord, my tender heart imbibed with my mother’s milk, the sweet name of Christ, Your Son, my Saviour; and ever after nothing, be it ever so learned, ever so polished, ever so true, could, if devoid of this name entirely carry me away.’ ENTIRELY carry me away! But partly, almost completely, carried away Augustine was. The explanation lies in Monica’s one fault – she deferred her child’s baptism and paid the price of thirty-three years’ anguish.
Brilliant, proud, high-spirited, Augustine passed from hero to zero. Influenced by bad company he became ashamed to be less wicked than others. ‘I became ashamed of not having done shameful things.’ Monica’s cup of bitterness seemed to be overflowing. Her brilliant son grown to man’s estate, seemed to have carefully rejected all her early teaching. In the midst of it all, came a ray of hope, the famous assurance: ‘The child of such tears will never perish.’
Alone with her grief, but incessant in prayer, Monica witnessed, through many years, the acute mental and moral struggles of Augustine. His great intellect had to be convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. He was left to struggle alone.
Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, the only man who could have assisted him left him entirely to himself in this matter, relying on the prayers of Saint Monica. ‘Often when we met,’ writes Saint Augustine, ‘he used to break forth in praise of my holy mother, congratulating me on having such a mother, not knowing what a son she had in me who doubted all things.’ Saint Ambrose knew, in spite of Augustine’s conviction to the contrary. But Ambrose was wise in the way of souls and his wisdom counselled silence.
Step by step, Augustine fought his way to the final conclusion that the Holy Scriptures and the Catholic Church had an undoubted claim on his assent and obedience.
Came the famous ‘take up and read’ incident and the conversion of Augustine was complete. Having sought the well of happiness and found only the puddle holes of sinful pleasure, Augustine finally succumbed to the influence of his holy mother and turned to God. ‘Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and cannot rest until they rest in You.’
The loving son of thirty-three brings the good news to the prematurely aged mother. He desires Baptism. With his scholarly friend, Alipius, he goes to Monica. In his own words: ‘Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her all. She leaps for joy and blesses You who are able to grant more than we can ask or imagine. For we saw that You had granted her for me, far more than she had ever dared to ask for in all her prayers and tears. You had turned her mourning into joy much more perfectly than she had ever hoped.’
– text taken from >
Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, was born in 332. After a girlhood of singular innocence and piety, she was given in marriage to Patritius, a pagan. She at once devoted herself to his conversion, praying for him always, and winning his reverence and love by the holiness of her life and her affectionate forbearance. She was rewarded by seeing him baptized a year before his death. When her son Augustine went astray in faith and manners, her prayers and tears were incessant. She was once very urgent with a learned bishop that he would talk to her son in order to bring him to a better mind, but he declined, despairing of success with one at once so able and so headstrong. However, on witnessing her prayers and tears, he bade her be of good courage; for it might not be that the child of those tears should perish. By going to Italy, Augustine could for a time free himself from his mother’s importunities; but he could not escape from her prayers, which encompassed him like the providence of God. She followed him to Italy, and there by his marvellous conversion her sorrow was turned into joy. At Ostia, on their homeward journey, as Augustine and his mother sat at a window conversing of the life of the blessed, she turned to him and said, “Son, there is nothing now I care for in this life. What I shall now do or why I am here, I know not. The one reason I had for wishing to linger in this life a little longer was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. This has God granted me super-abundantly in seeing you reject earthly happiness to become His servant. What do I here? “A few days afterwards, she had an attack of fever, and died in the year 387.
Reflection – It is impossible to set any bounds to what persevering prayer may do. It gives man a share in the Divine Omnipotence. Saint Augustine’s soul lay bound in the chains of heresy and impurity, both of which had by long habit grown inveterate. They were broken by his mother’s prayers.
John Dawson Gilmary Shea. “Saint Monica”. , 1889. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 March 2014. Web. 27 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/pictorial-lives-of-the-saints-saint-monica/>